If you follow more than a few yogis on instagram you probably are getting as berated as I am with pictures of miss flexy Susan just hanging out in a full split or with one leg behind her head like it ain’t no thang. Or forget yoga for a second and think of anything you see online. We constantly see people who are already at point B. It’s so easy to forget that they too started at point A.
So how the heck do we get to Point B and why do we even want to? Let’s circle back to yoga and the whole flexibility thing. I will continue to emphasize until the end of time that yoga is not about twisting your body into a pretzel. However, being flexible is certainly a much-desired benefit and I see no problem with having it as a goal in mind, so long as we can remain committed to the process, without being too attached to the outcome (now that is more what yoga is about).
Flexibility can help us to feel great in our bodies as it can relieve aches and pains and make other types of activities much easier. When we feel great in our bodies, it certainly has a big impact on our mental wellbeing as well. So that’s the why.
Now the how.
The important thing to remember is that it’s the little steps we take daily that lead us to the finish line. Nobody ever got there in one giant leap! Sure, sometimes it can feel like a giant leap to take that first step, but then it’s slow and steady wins the race. However, I’d like to encourage you to think of this not so much as a place to get to, but rather as milestones to keep you motivated and on the progress track. Because, truthfully, it never really ends and all that really matters is what the process does for you, today. If you feel like you’ve made some kind of small achievement today, then it has served a purpose. And maybe that achievement isn’t what you thought it was going to be.
So, let’s be honest, some days you just aren’t flexible, and stretching really isn’t going to get you anywhere. Those are the days you inhale, become aware of what’s possible in the present moment, and exhale it out. Finding acceptance throughout the process is just as important an achievement as going that much deeper into the stretch.
So, because there seems to be some kind of magical pill that everyone around me has swallowed that’s made them kookoo for hip openers, I’m going to share a few beginner-friendly yoga poses to help you ease into those deeper ones that are all hanging out over that giant hill in Point B-landia. If you consider yourself a permanent citizen of Point A-landia, start with these hip-openers and I promise the status of your application for Point B will change!
Bound Angle Pose (Bodakonasana)
This pose opens up the inner thighs and groin.
Start in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together as far or close to your groin as feels comfortable for you today. Let your knees fall out to the side and sit up with a straight spine. Some options include bringing your hands behind you, creating a small arch in your spine that tilts the pelvis and allows the knees to release further down. You can also take one hand to one thigh and gently press it open. Placing your feet on a block can relieve tightness in the inner thighs.
This pose creates both internal and external rotation of the hip joint and is mostly practiced in yin yoga.
Start in a seat facing the top of your mat. Bend one leg and bring your shin parallel to the top of your mat with your hips pointing forward. Swing the other leg around to your side. Start off with the knee close to your top foot and the shin parallel to the long side of your mat. If you are more open take the knee back so that your thigh is parallel to the top of your mat. Keep your spine upright. You can add a twist for a little release through the lower back.
Reclined IT Band Stretch
This pose stretches the outer hip and IT Band as the name suggests, and opens the inner thigh.
Start off by lying on your back with your knees bent, and the soles of your feet down on the mat, hips-width apart. Cross one ankle over the opposite thigh, just below the knee. Keeping this figure 4 shape, let your legs fall to the side of your bottom leg. If your foot doesn’t reach the ground, place it on top of a block. Bring your hand closest to your ankle or use it to press your top knee away so that it points up towards the ceiling.
Reclined Knee to Chest (With Hips Raised on Block)
This pose opens and releases the hip flexors.
Start off lying on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet on the mat. Press into your heels to lift your hips up and slide a block underneath your sacrum. Extend one leg and rest it on the mat. Draw the opposite knee to your chest, interlacing your hands around the knee.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
This pose continues to open up the hip flexors, and also strengthens their antagonists, the hamstrings and glutes.
Start off lying on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet on the mat, hips width apart, under your knees. Draw your navel in, curl your tailbone towards your pubic bone and lift your hips off the mat. Keep your arms by your side or interlace your hands underneath and come on to your shoulders.
So there you have several poses that you, my Point A friend, can begin with today to begin increasing flexibility in your hips. After you’ve tried some of these gentle openers you may be ready to increase the challenge and try this 40-minute deep hip-opening class:
If you’re looking for a steady path towards hip-opening, I invite you to check out my Deep Hip & Hamstring Flexibility series coming out on October 1 inside my online studio membership. This series guides you from most gentle practices to deeper challenges. Learn more about this membership and try this series for 7 days free: